“The sirens and the noise from vehicles are back to pre-lockdown levels, but this is the Shanghai we know, good or bad,” said Ma Zhenxin, a retiree jogging on Dongfang Road in the Pudong district at 7am.
At a kiosk, about 20 residents queued up to await the collection of their throat swaps, among the numerous tests ordered by local communities to ensure that the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19 is well and truly kept at bay. Shanghai authorities deployed 15,000 such test stations across the city.
The judicial courts, pubic security authorities, market regulators, hospitals and state-owned news organisations have ordered nearly all their staff to return to offices, abiding by the formal end of lockdowns today. Elsewhere in the private sector, many employers are still giving their staff the option to work from home.
People are required to provide negative results from nucleic acid tests taken within 72 hours before using public transport and visiting public venues, including office buildings, parks and shopping centres.
“I have forgotten how to drive and how to work,” said Terence Gong, a manager at a state-owned insurer in Shanghai. “It will take several days before we can adapt to the ‘new normal’ with constant nucleic tests and social distance rules.”
Twelve Shanghai shopping centres owned by such Hong Kong developers as Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), Swire Properties, Kerry Properties and Hang Lung Properties said business will resume at more than 800 stores, selling everything from designer brands to groceries and gadgets.
Shopping centre managers must limit the number of customers entering their premises, with the daily traffic capped at 75 per cent of their capacity, according to the regulations by the municipal authorities.
“We are delighted in welcoming our customers to visit our malls again,” said Hang Lung, the owner of Plaza 66 along Nanjing Road West in Jing’an district, and Grand Gateway 66 in Xuhui. “We also strictly follow the epidemic prevention policy of the Shanghai government, and keep the footfall of our malls within the maximum capacity allowed.”
More than 22 million residents, or 90 per cent of Shanghai’s population of 25 million people, living in low-risk areas that had been declared infection-free for the past 14 days will be allowed to leave their compounds, and access public transport.
Private cars will also be allowed to return to the roads in one of the largest population centres on Earth, as authorities allow employees to return to their offices after two months of working from home, part of an effort to revive the local economy.
SHKP will reopen more than 430 stores, or 68 per cent of the 630 outlets, at the Shanghai IFC, Iapm, One ITC, Two ITC and Shanghai Central Plaza, said Maureen Fung Sau-yim, executive director of the chairman’s office at SHKP’s unit Sun Hung Kai Real Estate Agency.
“At the Shanghai IFC [in Pudong] alone, over 90 per cent of the shops will resume business,” she said, adding that footfall may soon return to between 70 and 80 per cent of pre-lockdown levels.
International luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Prada reopened their outlets on Sunday, following the 1.2 million-square foot Shanghai IFC mall’s partial reopening, said Fung. On the same day, the supermarket at the Iapm mall on Huaihai Road, also welcomed customers.
“More than 100 people had queued up before the supermarket’s reopening” along Shanghai’s prime shopping thoroughfare, she said, adding that SHKP will bring back more than 1,000 staff across its properties to ensure their smooth running.
SHKP will offer shopping vouchers, up to five hours of free parking, car disinfection and cleaning services to attract shoppers, Fung said.
To ensure a safe shopping environment for customers, Fung said staff will thoroughly disinfect the premises and maintain a high level of hygiene apart from regular epidemic prevention measures.
Swire Properties said it will open about 200 stores, including retail and food and beverage outlets, at Taikoo Li Qiantan in Pudong, and over 150 stores at HKRI Taikoo Hui in Puxi.
The two luxury malls “have been preparing to reopen as soon as the local government restrictions ease,” a Swire spokeswoman said.
In mid-April, Taikoo Li Qiantan was one of the first shopping malls to obtain approval from the local government to provide food and beverage delivery services to the public, she said. On May 20, it resumed trial operations offline, which included reopening some restaurants, luxury retail and beauty salons.
Kerry Properties said around 800 staff were looking forward to welcoming customers at the Jing An Kerry Centre, Kerry Parkside and Kerry Everbright City.
“The malls have met the reopening requirements regarding staff health management and venue conditions,” it said. “In addition to enhanced disinfection, cleaning and ventilation, we will also set up entry control points for the scanning of visitors’ health codes.”
Additional reporting by Pearl Liu